Vietnamese Sea and Islands in its People's Minds

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“In the past we lived at night, in the forest. Now we own the day, the blue sky and our sea. We have the long, beautiful coasts that need to be treasured and preserved”. This is the meaningful reminder and order that President Ho Chi Minh gave to the citizens of Viet Nam, that we have to consistently protect our sovereignty, sovereign rights, jurisdiction and maritime interests. In 1473, King Le Thanh Tong said to his border guards: “Every inch of our mountains and rivers, we could not easily lose hold of. You have to keep debating, not to let others encroach. If they do not listen, embassadors can be sent to the North to clarify the rights and wrongs. If you dare let an inch of our ancestors’ land to be prey to the enemy, it is the death sentence you have to face”. This proves the determination to preserve every inch of the homeland of the people from many generations ago, as well as reminds every citizen of Viet Nam about their responsibility to protect the national border.

Beside the mainland, sea and islands are also components of our sacred sovereignty over the motherland, which not only brings about abundant maritime resources but also holds a strategic importance in the protection of our sovereignty. Viet Nam as a coastal country in the East Sea has 3,260 km of coastline from the North to the South and the sea area with thousands of islands, including the Paracels and Spratlys, which play an important part in its integration with the world. Especially, because the coasts and waters of Viet Nam lie on key maritime and aviation routes for the majority of trade activities between the Indian and Pacific oceans, Europe, the Middle East, China, Japan, and other countries in the region. Besides, our waters are an important strategic space for national defense and security. It can be said that Viet Nam's vital strategic location has been one of the reasons why the country has been invaded by many powerful countries. The sea and coasts have important meanings with our economic development owing to rich resources including sea creatures, oil, tourism resources, etc. This is properly why other coastal nations have got reclamation acts, causing territorial disputes in the sea for their interests in the marine resources .

Currently, the Paracels have been the object of dispute between 5 countries and 6 parties (China, Viet Nam, the Phillipines, Malaysia, Brunei and the territory of Taiwan). On the other hand, the Spratlys which belonged to Viet Nam were violently seized by China in 1956 and 1974 some of the reefs of the Paracels were invaded by China in 1988. This is a serious violation of the U.N. Charter and other norms of international law. In this context, we have to consistently protect our sovereignty, sovereign rights, jurisdiction and maritime interests and on the basis of international laws and the 1982 UNCLOS, be ready to cooperate with other stakeholders to jointly develop in disputed areas outside of our exclusive economic zone and 200-nautical mile continental shelf in the East Sea .

Through many ups and downs in history, Vietnamese people have bravely confronted invading forces to protect Viet Nam's sovereignty on the mainland. Along humanity's history, disputes have been resolved gradually through diplomatic means. Viet Nam has the consistent viewpoint on resolving the East Sea dispute by peaceful means, maintaining peace and stability in the region, avoiding violence and violent threats. We believe that with lawful basis and firm historical evidence, via bilateral and multilateral dialogues, Viet Nam is gaining international support, an important element in regaining our complete sovereignty over the Paracels and the Spratlys. Along with the great effort in diplomacy, Viet Nam is extending its military capacity. This is also a warning that Viet Nam, though a peace follower, is willing to protect its sovereignty by all means. With that viewpoint, all the Vietnamese people in general and overseas Vietnamese have shown practical support for our naval officers, law enforcement forces and fishermen, especially when China blatantly announced the "nine-dashed line" that illegally expands over 80% of the East Sea or defiantly and unlawfully positioned the 981 Hai Duong oil rig in Viet Nam's waters. Some of the most meaningful activities were the "Building the Paracels", "Love for the Paracels and the Spratlys", "Supportive nets for fishermen in the Paracels and the Spratlys" and many other exhibitions of historical evidence confirming the undeniable sovereignty of Viet Nam over the Paracels and the Spratlys.

 Up to date with the spirit to "Connect Da Nang worldwide", the Da Nang Department of Foreign Affairs have put in great effort to spread the word to friends and partners all over the world, confirming Viet Nam's sovereignty over the Paracels and the Spratlys. In addition, the Department has coordinated with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to distribute literature on sea and island matters in Vietnamese and foreign languages to local citizens and students. Furthermore, we have advised the city leaders to incorporate details on this issue into meetings with foreign partners, and built up our knowledge and language capability to deliver precise translation during these meetings. We really hope that, through various ways of communicating rich content, our international friends can acquire a precise and comprehensive overview on Viet Nam's sacred sovereignty over the Paracels and the Spratlys.

Reference: "Viet Nam's imprint in the East Sea" by Dr. Tran Cong Truc, "Viet Nam's Sea and Islands" leaflet by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Hong Hanh – Translated by Cam Tu. 

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